James Kidd was supposed to be a nobody, relegated to the heaps of history as just another anonymous soul, a lost copper miner. Born on July 18, 1879, in Ogdensburg, New York, Kidd disappeared in the spectacular Superstition Mountains of Arizona in November of 1949. Just another lost employee of the Miami Copper Company of Arizona. There was even some speculation among the locals that Kidd was onto a gold find and someone may have killed him to stake the claim. Kidd, a loner with no known friends or relatives, had some very valuable stock certificates in a company known as E. F. Hutton.
But nobody knew that when he never returned from his prospecting hike.
That could or should of been the end of it. Legal paperwork sprung up after his death, at the time, totally routine. In 1954, State record showed that he was a missing person.
Everything changed in 1957. Money will do that. His unclaimed safety deposit box was opened by the tax authorities. For reasons only a bureaucrat could explain, it wasn't until 1964 that an inventory was taken. A 1930 hand-written will was found, signed in Douglas, Arizona. After inventory of the stock, the estate flowing from the safety deposit box was valued at just over $500-thousand (estate-chaser attorneys were at the front of the line: by the time the court cases were over, only $200K was left).
If nothing else, the will was one-of-a-kind:
"This is my first and only Will and is dated the second of January, 1946. I have no heirs and have not been married in my life and after all my funeral expenses have been paid and one hundred dollars to some preacher of the gospel to say farewell at my grave, sell all my property which is all in cash and stocks with E. F. Hutton Co., Phoenix, some in safety deposit box, and have this balance money to go in a research or some scientific proof of a soul of the human body which leaves at death I think in time there can be a photograph of soul leaving the human at death.
That kind of money was enough to draw the mice from the walls.
First up was the University of Life Church Inc. of Arizona who asserted: "We can do that."
Two men from Canada stepped forward claiming to be long-lost brothers of the $500K … err, James Kidd.
The American Society for Psychical Research came forward saying they had the best chance of producing a photograph of the human soul leaving the human body; not sure when or anything, but we're working on it!
From May to October, 1965, Justice Robert Myers of the Court of Maricopa County, Arizona presided over ninety days of hearing including every charlatan half a million dollars could muster. Some newspapers called it the Ghost Trial of the Century.
Finally, in October 20, 1967, the money was given to the Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix, Arizona.
But a legal decision unlike the human being, has a vulnerable soul. An appeal was launched and it was successful.
From the official court records:
"On January 2, 1946, James Kidd executed a holographic will which states in part: 'sell all my property… and have this balance of money to go in a research or some scientific proof of a soul of the human body which leaves at death I think in time their can be a Photograph of soul leaving the human at death.'
"On proof that Kidd has absented himself from Maricopa County for such a period of time as to be presumed dead, the will was admitted to judgment by the bank. Judge Robert L. Myers declared that Kidd's will created a valid, charitable testamentary trust, and set for hearing the petitions of those individuals and organizations who sought distribution of the estate for the purpose of engaging in research under the terms of the will.
"One hundred thirty three claims were made, and from June through October 1967, over one hundred written and oral testimonies were heard in Superior Court. On November 7, 1967, Judge Myers signed an order appointing the Neurological Sciences Foundation of Phoenix as trustee. At that time the estate was valued at roughly $200,000. However the decision was appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court who reversed and remanded the Superior Court’s decision on January 19, 1971. Judge Myers subsequently ruled that the trust be granted to the American Society for Psychical Research, who as trustee conducted its research on its Hypothesis of Post-Mortem Survival until the funds from the Kidd estate were depleted in May 1975."1
- Fuller, John G., The Great Soul Trial (MacMillan, 1969)
- Image is The Soul Hovering Over the Body Reluctantly Parting with Life by Louis Schiavonetti (1765-1810)
- NOTE 1: Keanes, Michael, Case History Index (Maricopa County, Arizona: Superior Court, 2010). Retrieved on June 22, 2011 from www.clerkofcourt.maricopa.gov/news/CaseHistoryIndex.pdf